Pamela Colman Smith
I’d like you to meet Pamela Colman Smith. You might be thinking, ‘Not sure who that is!’ but I promise that you’re familiar with her work. If you’ve ever seen a tarot card in your life – in a movie or on TV, at your Aunt Gertrude’s house, in your stoner girlfriend’s bedside table – then you’ve seen the artwork of Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith. Pixie is the illustrator behind the ubiquitous Rider-Waite tarot deck, now commonly referred to as the Smith-Rider-Waite. Hers are the most widely recognized and used tarot cards of the 21st Century. Most modern decks are very clearly modeled after the Smith-Rider-Waite print. (If you look closely at any of the cards in that deck, you will see an insignia – the letters S, P, & C merged into one – these are her initials.)
Only recently has Pamela Colman Smith’s story started coming to light. While she is most well-known for her tarot illustrations, they took up only a very small sliver of her artistic career. Raised in New York, London, and Jamaica, Pixie was a prolific artist in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. She worked on a huge range of projects: watercolors, drawings, poetry collections, set design, puppet shows (yes girl). Her family were practicing Spiritualists, and she was surrounded by the most well-known artists of her day. Her life is legit-git fascinating. Learn ALL about it (as in, “I read an entire book in preparation for this episode” ALL about it) in “Episode 9 – Boston Marriages and Taro(t).”
Gerda Taro, a young Jewish woman sporting a beautiful upscale dinner gown while sitting in a German jail cell after being arrested for distributing anti-Nazi propaganda. How’s that for picture perfect?
Gerda was known as “the little red fox” for her ginger hair and her fearless spirit. She split from her family at 23 years old and fled to Paris to become a photojournalist. There, she met Endre Freidmann, a Hungarian Jew who’d teach her the ropes of photography. The two fell in love and lived happily ever after capturing beautiful scenic photos of landscape, wild life, and the occasional flower crown maternity shoot.
Skkkkkuuuuuuuuuurttttttttttttttttt *record scratch*
HOLD UP… this isn’t a Disney Channel Original Movie. PAUSE. REWIND. START OVER.
Gerda Taro was a fucking boss who risked her life, and ultimately lost her life, covering the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. She was a brave, talented photographer, whose career began as a photography assistant for Endre. The two decided to concoct a career plan and invent an American alias name that they’d publish their work under since Europe was intolerant of Jews during this time period. They settled on the name Robert Capa… a name Endre would ultimately take on as his own. Gerda’s photos were published under Endre’s new name of Robert Capa. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Gerda ended up kicking Endre to the curb, she rejected his marriage proposal, and took off to cover the front lines of war BY HERSELF! She visited hospitals and morgues after bombings and captured shots of injured soldiers in hopes of influencing political public opinion. Her photos were a true testimony of war and she stopped at nothing to show the world what it really looked like. Not all heroes wear capes, some wear beautiful upscale dinner gowns.
Listen to the rest of her story including another love affair and her mysterious “accidental” death in “Episode 9 – Boston Marriages and Taro(t)”.